I've never really spoken about fitness here but it is a hot topic at the moment, with sportswear ranges springing up left, right and centre. I've seen a few high street offerings but I'm hesitant to try any of these collections as heavy-duty active wear is such a specialist thing. If you are investing in clothes for the gym rather than wearing an old pair of legging and a baggy t-shirt, there are so many options to consider!
By way of my own fitness, when I hit 25 I started to feeling slower in general. As I work in an office, I spend most of my time sitting down, and this in itself can make you feel lethargic. As I've never had a car, I spend my entire life walking everywhere, carrying my shopping from the supermarket all of the way home, and pacing to and from work in every weather, every day. In some ways I am active, but I never felt pushed. In the past year I have tried a few things and really found what works and what doesn't work for me. I know what it's like to read those articles, follow the Instagram accounts and make a fitness resolution, only to feel disheartened, so here are my real life, manageable fitness thoughts if you feel the January or office slump like I do.
Work on yourself - not your selfie!
I'm generally motivated by treating my body like a temple (this can change on a Friday night!) and using it as a machine to propel me to do better at work, have more energy and thus make more money and travel further! I've always had body confidence because, of all of the many things I stress about, I've always shown my body love. Maybe it's how I was bought up, with homemade meals all prepared from scratch and a mother who would never say a negative thing about herself or anyone else, and maybe it's because I've always known that the world is full of people of all shapes, sizes and colours, and there is no one definition of beauty. Having a characteristic that you think is not good enough does not mean you will be less successful, less loved or less anything. It's so true that beauty comes from the inside. I'm also big believer in that if something does play on your mind, then you should make the best of it. Teeth slightly wonky? Make them the most sparkling white colour, always beautifully polished and super fresh. Think your arms are too wobbly? Moisturise like there is no tomorrow so they are incredibly smooth and clear, and invest in a pretty manicure. There is no such thing as a flaw, only comparison. Once you do you and leave everyone else to what they are doing, you can focus on your own goals and work towards whatever will make you happy! You can't fail when you are doing yourself - it's always going to be yourself, just a version that you dig.
The best things in life are free.
First thing’s first: the first steps to a healthy life are free! If you got an extra hours sleep a night, took time to prepare nutritional meals, de-stressed, spent time with loved ones, and ate a solid breakfast errryday. Fitness isn't a quick fix or the foundation of a brand new you, it's almost the topping to an overall healthy life. So take small steps to the things you already do like sleeping and eating before joining an expensive gym. Then clear that clutter, rise early, and start freeing some time in your schedule, rather than make yourself feel bad for not exercising after a long day – that’s almost impossible!
My first flirtation with a gym membership was in Bristol and I turned up to the induction imagining it would be a stroll around the facilities. I didn't know this was the opportunity to actually get started, figure out how the machines work and get some tips on a workout routine, so I was never keen to go back as I had no idea what to do there! I tried a few classes and found they were really intense, and promptly ditched all of the leggings, sports bras and new trainers I had bought. I then joined the gym linked to my current job and booked an induction at a quieter time in the evening, revealing to the instructor that I had never done a squat before, let alone programmed a machine! They answer all of your questions and write down a programme of exercises (with diagrams if requested) so you can follow a sequence the next time you visit, rather than being faced with a whole gym. Every so often I schedule another session for a new routine to mix things up.
The fit kit.
What to wear? JD Sports let me pick out some items from their website and it has given me a new motivation. I can't wear my new items unless I work out, therefore I want to work out! I would begin a new fitness venture in your old trainers, leggings and your dad's/boyfriend's t-shirt and get a feel for what you like. Then it will be even more motivating to reward yourself with a hot new pair of trainers or killer leggings as you venture further into your new routine. I'm seeing lots of colours and grey marl out there in the fashion sports collections, but nothing is more easy-wearing than smoothing and supportive black leggings, with a high waist band so you can bend and stretch. The Dry Fit material of these Nike Leggings mean there are zero sweat marks. Have you ever been hot in grey jersey material? The worst choice! Then you need the sports bra to be sure any t-shirt can be draped over; it would be impossible to stretch out in a wired bra. A matching Nike Sports Bra is so satisfying. I like bouncy trainers like Roshe Runs so I still feel light on my feet, and I am sure to take off my makeup before working out so my skin can breathe out any toxins. After I shower, I use a natural moisturiser like coconut oil as not only is it cheap, but I prefer it to rubbing chemicals into my skin. I have an uneasy feeling about rubbing concoctions into my body but I'm totally fine with makeup and perfume?!
I've had various successes with my current gym. I have to pack my gym kit the night before and go straight from work, so often it is set in my mind if I'm going to the gym that day. I've varied from going three times a week to now, when I somehow seem to be tied up every night with socialising, work functions, errands or I simply don't want to go that day! If I decide not to, I leave my gym kit at my desk and consider going the next day. So my first thought is that you really have to be in the swing of going, but be ready to go on impulse. Fitting in an hour when you've had a break for a few weeks is better than feeling bad and promising yourself you will begin again on Monday though. If you have a car, you could always leave your gym kit in there all of the time, and choose a gym that's already situated along your usual journey if you plan to go after work, or one easily accessible on foot.
Fire yourself up with mood boards, attainable goals, holidays and anything positive - not negative. Thinking positively is persuading your mind to do something and thinking negatively is telling yourself to stop doing something.
I know the gym is usually busiest on a Monday and Tuesday, so I tend to go towards the end of the week, and especially on blissfully empty Fridays! When you know you have the gym to yourself, it is must more tempting to go. You can also watch TV while on the bikes or treadmills; the perfect time to catch up with The Kardashians.
It’s best to start anything in such manageable chunks that you almost want to do more. Just go for 20 minutes at a time if you feel daunted. You will find you often want to stay longer, but just promising yourself a 20 minute work-out will not put you off going. If you're thinking '20 minutes, that's nothing, what's the point!?'. Try that 20 minutes and see how this builds up over the week. Get in, get out, and work out for longer if you do feel like it.
Being in an all-girls environment makes me feel so much less distracted. Sadly that’s not because I'm looking at loads of hunky men around me but that I just feel more focussed when there's not a stinky dude on the bike to my right or an angry looking guy panting on the mat next to mine!
To gym or not to gym.
Hate the gym? Now I can reveal I don't really like the gym too much and I'm not surprised they don't work for most people! My germophobe thoughts overtake when I imagine all of the sweating on each machine, so in your induction, be sure to rate the cleanliness of the gym if this might bother you too. There should be pots of disinfectant wipes across the gym floor that are used by each person to wipe down machine or mat they have just used - or you can use these before starting on one to give it a quick wipe over. Despite there being instructors everywhere, I never really know if the moves I am doing are using the right muscles or are in fact just harming my back for example. So the gym is almost my end-of-the-week prep if I am going out that weekend, almost like my routine of washing my hair, fake tan and pedicure just before Friday. If you have had a little gym session, you feel even more fabulous. I think of the outfit I’m wearing and how I want to *glow* rather than look drained after a hectic week. It's another way to make it the best night ever. Now that I have a purpose for the gym and I'm not going there 'just because', I have a few other options for the tiring midweek evenings...
I love a good class! The gym is not for everyone and is quite a failure on getting people to exercise. My one wholehearted recommendation is to join fun exercise dance or movement classes like Step, Zumba, Aerobics - anything to music! Sure there are classes at gyms and these are often high energy and intense, so you really do get a workout, but local church hall classes are just as good. I took dance classes for years and years when I was younger and this feels so natural to me and such a release. I love dancing with my girls on a weekend and this is almost like going to a club midweek!
When I'm in a gym, my mind naturally tells me 'You do not want to lift this one more time' whereas in a class, your mind works in tandem with everyone else as you follow the instructor from move to move. An hour flies by - especially if it's a fun class like Zumba. These classes can vary as some may be less intense than others, but you find local classes are not at all competitive and each person goes at their own pace. There will always be a granny at the back and a few giggling teenage girls. It's a very inclusive environment and you can work out without feeling self-conscious at all. They are so frills-free that it’s never daunting to go.
A lady I know has been going to aerobics for 30 years! She didn't post snaps on social media, track her progress in an app, or buy a .pdf download of exactly which exercises will blow up her booty. She just went to a class - simple! And now 30 years later she has 30 years of classes behind her and still does them a few times a week even at 60. Amazing!
I stay with my Nan every week and she does not have internet at home so it's my chance to read. Fitness magazines are nowadays full of lifestyle tips and recipes that can be a tangible motivation, rather than a tab you save for later or a link you never go back to.
I'm seeing more and more YouTubers doing at-home work outs and every celeb has a DVD on the market, but unless you can run your own schedule, there is no way I would come home after a hard day's work and do an exercise routine in front of my sofa, rather than sit on it and relax! My home is strictly for unwinding, not getting hot and sweaty, and also there is just nowhere near enough room compared to an open hall or studio. I wouldn't be able to fling around without knocking over the TV or punching a wall! As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, for me exercise is so much about stretching out and moving for me after being stuck in a chair all day.
So I hope those tips were realistic and maybe inspired you to try a few slow changes and ease into a new class or try that gym again! It's not about what you should and shouldn't do or comparing yourself to a ridiculous Instagram before-and-after shot; it's about making a personal decision that is made up of so many small changes. They add up to health, confidence and a happiness that will pour into the other areas of your life that you love and value.
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